Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for April 2019, Part Four

Part four of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases—and more—in shops for Record Store Day this Saturday, April 13, 2019. Part one is here, part two is here, and part three is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Elkhorn, Sun Cycle & Elk Jam (Feeding Tube) Elkhorn is the guitar duo of Drew Gardner on Fender Telecaster and Jesse Sheppard on 12-string acoustic; they have three prior releases out, starting with their self-titled 2016 effort on Beyond Beyond is Beyond, and now here’s two more, released simultaneously but separately via one of the current scene’s best (and most prolific) small labels. If you’re excited for some electric-acoustic duo interplay, that’s exactly what you’ll get on Elkhorn’s prior records, but here they are joined by Willie Lane on third guitar and Ryan Jewell on drums and tabla, the impulse to add players first documented last November on CDR (in an edition of 50 and still available digitally). The presence of supplementary hands is felt here, but especially so on Elk Jam.

On Sun Cycle, the duo interplay is still very much discernible, with Sheppard coming from an American Primitive place and Gardner exploring lysergic plains reminiscent at times of raga rock and unsurprisingly ’60s San Fran. Gardner’s background in avant-jazz (having played with John Tchicai and Sabir Mateen) combines well with Sheppard’s dexterous fingerpicking to ensure that the outward-bound travels never meander or for that matter simply spin wheels while navigating out of a psychedelic rut. The lack of vocals is also a major plus. The Bay Area vibe is particularly strong on Elk Jam, with the title of the LP inspiring thoughts of Elkhorn releasing it as a free album a la Moby Grape’s Grape Jam. They didn’t, but I can’t imagine psych fans being the slightest bit disappointed after dropping cash for both of these. A/ A

Reese McHenry, No Dados (Suah Sounds) Lovers of gal-throated hard-edged garage-based belting should step right up to this one. Chapel Hill, NC-based McHenry’s second album after prior experience with the Dirty Little Healers delivers a powerful kick, but it’s also an inspirational story, as it documents McHenry’s return to the musical path after being diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation and suffering a near-fatal stroke (followed by a series of smaller ones). It was a tough road back, but Bad Girl, cut with backing from Spider Bags, solidified her return, and No Dados extends the positive trajectory. Her band this time is out is Raleigh’s Drag Sounds, who tear it up like experts, but it’s McHenry’s show all the way; compared to Janis J., contempos Shilpa Ray and Neko Case also came to mind, and that’s wonderful. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Griot Galaxy, Kins (Third Man) This gleaming nugget of underheard jazz history intertwines some sturdy threads. They feature a three-sax lineup of Faruq Z. Bey (tenor and alto), Anthony Holland (alto and soprano), and David McMurray (all three), this configuration bringing the World Saxophone Quartet to mind. But with bassist Jaribu Shahid and drummer Tani Tabbal on hand, there are aspects reinforcing the influence of the Art Ensemble of Chicago and Sun Ra. Additionally, they dish some killer post-Ornette free-bop, and as Shahid plays electric as well as acoustic bass, unusually appealing jazz funk. If you’re thinking Kins is all over the place stylistically, no. If the seed of Afrofuturism is planted in your mind, that’s a most emphatic yes. Altogether delightful. A

Cheap Trick The Epic Archive Vol. 3 (1984-1992) (Real Gone) I’m gonna make it plain. The music collected here is not the music I think of when I think of Cheap Trick, and I do think of them, if not daily, then with some regularity, for when they were on top of their game, they were a great fucking band. This is not to say that some of this doesn’t jog the memory banks. Of course, “The Flame” does (I’d rather it didn’t, though it’s not a bad song), and so does their association with Up the Creek, a 1984 raunch comedy, essentially a pale imitation of Animal House. I recall Cheap Trick’s theme song being the best thing about it (I mean I guess so; it’s been a while). Overall, this is a mixed bag of ups (they seem to be having a good time) and downs (a few songs are near dud-like). Kinda like life in general. B

Dillinger, CB200 (Get on Down) Released in 1976 by Island, CB200 is a dub classic that put its toasting vocalist on the international reggae radar screen. It was the second LP by Dillinger, whose birth name is Lester Bullock (reportedly given his sobriquet by none other than Lee “Scratch” Perry; previously, he went by Dennis Alcapone, Jr.). Insuring the record’s success was “Cokane In My Brain,” which was also big as a single in certain regions of the globe; as an undisguised drug song, it was obviously not going to hit the charts elsewhere. What the song really has going for it is a sense of humor (kinda reminding me of certain early rap cuts) that helps Dillinger to stand out, and so it remains today. Perry produced his early stuff, but the duties are handled with aplomb here by Joseph “Jo Jo” Hoo Kim. A-

Fatlip, The Loneliest Punk (ORG Music) Fatlip is noted as an MC from Los Angeles crew The Pharcyde, whose ’92 debut Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde and its sorta slept-on ’95 follow-up Labcabincalifornia are two of the decade’s strongest hip-hop efforts. The Pharcyde continued to release albums, but this solo effort didn’t come out until 2005; giving it a fresh spin through this vinyl reissue finds it holding up well. While oozing decided West Coast atmosphere, The Loneliest Punk extends from The Pharcyde’s template in being impossible to mistake as anybody else, making the guest spot by Shock G (a.k.a. Humpty Hump from Digital Underground) wholly fitting. But happily, this LP isn’t overloaded with outside contributors, with Jurassic 5’s Chali 2NA the only other guest. A sturdy, fun, inventive time. A-

Insides, Euphoria (Beacon Sound) As Simon Reynolds mentions in his contemporary notes for this reissue of a record originally put out by 4AD in 1993, this group (effectively a duo) sprang from the demise of prior outfit Earwig; with the exit of member Dimitri Voulis, vocalist-bassist Kirsty Yates and guitarist Julian Tardo became Insides. Tardo is also credited with programming, which given the decade of origin might lead folks unexposed to Insides’ work to a post-rock conclusion. Those folks are as right as rain. In fact, Reynolds adds that his initial review of this record was the first time he used the term post-rock in print. Notable. He also observes that Euphoria is much more pop than other early post-rock representatives, a circumstance very much derived from Yates’ singing. Everything goes down easy. B+

Chad Smith & Josh Klinghoffer, “Jeepster” b/w “Monolith” (ORG Music) I can’t remember the last time I listened to the Red Hot Chili Peppers outside of pumping gas or waiting in line at a convenience store, but hey, this isn’t the Chili Peppers but rather the band’s guitarist (that’d be Klinghoffer, who also adds bass and vocals) and drummer (that’d be Smith) dishing two T. Rex covers. Some are likely grumping that this is the sorta thing these technically adept cats could whip out with ease, but I’m not the slightest bit bothered. In fact, I’m thinking it’s the sorta scenario they could’ve just as easily screwed up; that these two bright but not overly produced numbers go down so well is appreciated. That means it’s recommended even if you’re not a RHCPs fan. If you’re not a T. Rex, then go fish. B+

V/A, Sun Records Curated by Record Store Day, Volume 6 (ORG Music) The first side of this female-focused entry in ORG’s RSD Sun Records series is better described as a tidy dive into Shelby Singleton’s SSS label, including Jeanne C. Riley’s classic skewering of small-town hypocrisy “The Harper Valley PTA,” actually first released on Singleton’s Plantation label, which is I’m guessing how Patti Page doing “Tennessee Waltz” turned up on side two. It’s the story of catalog purchases and distribution, so we’re pretty far afield (like, afield to the degree of The Dixie Cups’ “Chapel of Love”) from Elvis, rockabilly, Cash, Memphis blues, Orbison, and Charlie Rich. And so, if not representative of Sun Records’ still relevant historical significance, this stands as a cool comp heavy on lady soul and girl group action. B+

Renata Zeiguer, “Faraway Business” (Northern Spy) Zeiguer’s full-length debut Old Ghost came out last year, and I dug it. This cassette, an interim offering from the vocalist and songwriter as she works on her next album, features two new recordings of the songs “Gravity” and “Wayside” from her 2018 effort, coupled with a pair of covers, the bossa nova “Chega de Saudade,” sung in Portuguese with an explicit hat-tip to João Gilberto (the song opened and titled his debut album) and “Permanently Lonely” by Willie Nelson. While the levels of lo-fi fluctuate across the four tracks, Zeiguer’s use of a ’60s-era Ace drum machine blends with the hiss on “Chega de Saudade” to reinforce tape spools as the proper format for this nifty little EP. Cumulatively, her originals hold up well beside the interpretations. A-

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